A certain bother, overcome by the passion of wantonness, sinned every day. However, each time, with tears and prayers, he would fall before the Master and Lord and receive forgiveness from Him. And as soon as he had repented, the next day, being misled again by shameful habit, he would fall to sin.
Afterwards, having sinned, he would go to the Church, where he would prostrate himself, before the honorable and revered icon of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and tearfully confess to Jesus: “Lord have mercy upon me and take away from me this fearful temptation, for it troubles me fiercely and wounds me with the bitter taste of the pleasures. O my Master, cleanse my person once more, that I may gaze upon thine icon, and see thy holy form and the sight of thy face, brighter than the sun, that my heart might be sweetened and thankful.”
And though his lips had just whispered these words, no sooner would he leave the Church than he would fall once again to sin.
Despite this, however, he did not despair of his salvation, but, returning from his sinful deed, would cry out in the Church the same words to God—to the Lord, who loves mankind—adding the following: “My Lord, I swear to thee on my word that I shall no longer commit this sin. Only forgive me, Good and most Merciful Lord, whatever sins I have committed, from the beginning to this moment.”
No sooner would he utter these awe-inspiring words, than he would find himself the captive of this evil sin. Let no one cease to marvel at the sweet love of God towards mankind and at his boundless goodness, with which he each day tolerated the uncorrected and evil transgression and ingratitude of the brother. Indeed, God, because of the greatness of his mercy, persistently accepted the repentance of that sinful brother and his inevitable return. For this happened not for one or two or three years, but for more than ten years.
Do you see, my brother, the measureless forbearance and boundless love of the Master? How he continually endures, showing to us kindness, tolerating our terrible transgressions and sins? And what evokes astonishment and wonderment with regard to the rich mercies of God is that he did not become wrathful with the brother in question, though the brother, agreeing not to fall to sin again, continually broke his word.
At any rate, one day when all that we have described once again occurred, the brother, having fallen to sin, rushed to the Church, lamenting, groaning, crying with anguish, to invoke the mercy of God, that he might have compassion on him, and take him from the sin of immorality.
[Later, after the Devil accuses the Lord of being unjust for expelling him from heaven while receiving the sinful brother, the Lord replies:]
“O all-cunning and ruinous dragon, are you not yet satisfied with your evil and destructive desire to gobble up the world? Now you have even the nerve to try and do away with this man, who has come with contrition to entreat the mercy of my compassion—to devour him, too? Can you offer up enough sins, that, by them, you can tilt the balance of justice against the precious blood which I shed on the Cross for this man? Behold my murder and death, which I endured for the forgiveness of his sins.
You, when he turns again to sin, do not turn him away, but receive him with joy, neither chastising him nor preventing him from committing sin, out of the hope that you might win him over. Yet I, who am merciful and love mankind, who counselled my laudable Apostle, Peter, to forgive sins seventy times seventy, do I not show him mercy and compassion? Indeed—simply because he flees to me—I will not turn him away until I have won him over. Furthermore, I was crucified for sinners and for their salvation; My immaculate hands were nailed to the Cross, that those who so wish might take refuge in me and be saved. For this reason, then, I neither turn away nor reject anyone, even if he should fall many times a day and many times return to me; such a person will not leave my temple saddened, for I came not to call the righteous, but to call sinners to repent.”
- St. Amphilochios on Avoiding Despair (from the Evergetinos, Book I)